Visit Japan in California
Satisfy a craving for ramen, shabu-shabu, or yakitori with a trip to the Sawtelle area of West Los Angeles.
Once known mainly for its Japanese American nurseries, this longtime ethnic neighborhood is populated by a young crowd that has turned the area between Olympic and Santa Monica Boulevards into a strip of eateries, karaoke bars, boba tea shops, toy and clothing boutiques, and art galleries.
Exit I-405 at Santa Monica Blvd.; go west on Santa Monica and then head south on Sawtelle Blvd.
Orris Japanese- and French-fusion small plates. Try the braised duck breast with yuzu-chile paste or the Dungeness crab-and-cucumber salad. INFO: $$$; closed Mon; 2006 Sawtelle Blvd.; 310/268-2212.
Kaiten-Sushi Daichan For a bargain, pluck dishes from a revolving conveyor belt, Tokyo-style. Sit near the front to get the best choice of $2 albacore or $4.50 rainbow rolls. A laser scanner ejects unpicked dishes after an hour so the sushi stays fresh. INFO: $$; 11301 Olympic Blvd., Ste. 203; 310/914-5028.
Mizu 212° At this shabu-shabu joint, sit at the bar and dip raw, free-range chicken or Kobe-style beef, noodles, and organic veggies into a pan of boiling water. Wisps of steam climb high as diners coat their cooked concoctions with goma (sesame) or ponzu sauces. INFO: $$$; 2000 Sawtelle Blvd.; 310/478-8979.
Karaoke Bleu An extensive English and Japanese song list draws crowds of crooners until 2 a.m. INFO: Ages 21 and over; $5 drink and $1 snack minimum; 2064 Sawtelle Blvd.; 310/477-4794.
Volcano Tea House The place to get your fix for boba ― “bubble tea” made with tapioca pearls ― night or day. INFO: $; 2111 Sawtelle Blvd.; 310/445-5326.
Jinenkan Martial Arts Learn the art of samurai sword fighting from sensei Peter Steeves, who has more than 20 years of martial arts training. INFO: Three-hour workshop from $30, free introductory session by appointment; 2130 Sawtelle Blvd.; 310/477-8425.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
Shop for plush Ugly Dolls and quirky T-shirts at Giant Robot (2015 Sawtelle Blvd.; 310/478-1819), part of an Asian American pop-culture empire that includes Giant Robot magazine and illustrative art gallery GR2 (2062 Sawtelle; 310/445-9276).
HAPPENING IN DECEMBER
On December 8, celebrate the new year early by watching mochi-tsuki ― mochi pounding ― at the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple , just around the corner from bustling Sawtelle Boulevard. INFO: The mochi (rice cakes) will be made beginning at 8 a.m. on Dec 8, and pre-ordered mochi ($2.50 per pound) can be picked up starting at noon that day; 2003 Corinth Ave.; 310/477-7274.